Navy Reenlistments On US Warship Spiked After Seeing Action Downing Houthi Missiles

(Photo by FELIX GARZA/US NAVY/AFP via Getty Images

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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Reenlistments on the USS Carney destroyer spiked after the ship’s first engagement with attack drones launched from Houthi-controlled Yemen, a top Navy officer said, according to Military Times.

The Carney, along with other guided-missile destroyers, have downed dozens of drones and missiles in the Red Sea to protect international shipping from the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in recent months. When the Carney shot down missiles the Houthis appeared to launch toward Israel in October, the urgency and importance of the warship’s mission appeared to resonate with crew members, Cmdr. Jeremy Robertson, commander of the Carney, reportedly told Vice Adm. Brendan McLane, who formerly commanded the warship and is now the head of Naval Surface Forces, according to Military Times.

“[Robertson] told me that, two days after their first engagement, he had 15 reenlistment contracts on his desk,” McLane told Military Times. “I think this has something to do with the investment that we’ve made in [weapons tactics instructors], and the investment that we’ve made in developing a warfighting culture.” (RELATED: Navy On Pace To Whiff Recruitment Goal Despite Encouraging December)

“Our sailors are incredibly energized by being able to operate their weapons systems in the way that they are intended and seeing success in doing that,” he added.

The Iran-backed Houthi rebels have sought, sometimes successfully, to attack commercial vessels. Missiles and drones have also been aimed at U.S. Navy vessels. The Houthis say they are targeting Israel-linked vessels in response to the country’s war against Hamas in Gaza, but so far the attacks appear indiscriminate.

Experts and officers agree the Navy surface fleet is learning from the type and volume of engagements, which come at a pace unknown in modern history, according to Military Times. Destroyers have not participated in major gunfights since they were tasked with providing support during the Vietnam War, Jan van Tol, a retired forward-deployed warship captain and senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said.

McLane did not say how the incidents have informed tactics or ongoing training, but added that the fleet is monitoring developments “very closely,” the outlet reported.

“We have our warfare tactics instructors involved in analyzing the data that we’re getting from the tapes on the Carney and the other ships,” he said. “And we’re looking very closely at profiles and what we have to do when it comes to radar tuning. And what we have to do when it comes to setting up our weapons system on the ship to make sure that we have … maximum defensive capability at all times.”

The fleet is also wrestling with the cost differential of shooting down cheap drones and crude, Iranian-made anti-ship cruise or ballistic missiles with the expensive systems outfitted on destroyers.

“This is a mix we haven’t seen before, and it does represent a new wrinkle,” retired Vice. Adm. Robert Murrett, head of the Institute for Security Policy and Law at Syracuse University, told Military Times.

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